The Pencil Guy: Hourann's illogical blog

More ‘slow inevitability’ than ‘controversial debate’

Thursday 14 June 2007 at 11:45 pm

HeLa cells with blue nuclear stain

The current debate about using embryos for science is, in my estimation, primarily made up of hot air rather than any real hope of changing the minds of MPs who are already in favour. Indeed, most of the ink-spilling has been about Catholic leaders in Sydney and Perth (and in the latter case, the intent probably was just to describe the official contradiction in being pro-cloning and Catholic — but then, some Catholics use condoms).

Ever since the Federal ban on embryonic stem cell research was dropped late last year, there’s been a new impetus for complementary State rules. The bill to do this in NSW comfortably passed through their lower house last week, while WA’s bill is currently being discussed in the lower house. The Victorian parliament approved their bill back in May.

As far as I can tell, the other states haven’t much moved — for instance, Queensland’s bill seems stuck in the hands of the folks drafting it. Internationally, somatic cell nuclear transfer is legal in the UK, several other EU countries, much of East Asia, and the US (although Americans have to contend with a patchwork of state regulations and a federal funding controversy).

Since I’m generally in favour of abortion (specifically, the argument that a foetus isn’t human enough for its rights to override those of a fully-fledged human), it seems logically inconsistent for me to oppose therapeutic cloning. And I’m hardly alone in supporting it — while I’ve no data for the public at large, the counts that newspapers have done of how MPs intend to vote suggest a majority acceptance that’s in line with the international consensus. So it strikes me as just a matter of time (and impassioned bluster) before stem cell research is legal nationwide.

(Incidentally, it would be consistent to say that stem cells at 14 days aren’t human while a foetus at 28 days is, and therefore therapeutic cloning is OK but abortion isn’t. I’d like to see someone seriously make this argument, but I’ve only seen newspaper letters that didn’t-quite-embrace it.)